Former Swedish Police Chief Björn Eriksson wants to keep using cash. Photo: Private
Our report on Sweden becoming a near-cashless society went viral last month. But former Sweden Police Chief and Interpol President Björn Eriksson says there are reasons to be cautious about the concept.
"Banks have long been lobbying to remove cash from our communities, and they have come a long way. Four out of five purchases in Sweden are now made electronically or by debit card.
But the issue is far too important to be left in the hands of the private sector.
The state needs to make sure that people still have the right to use cash.
Last week saw Sweden's banks release their accounts and yet again we heard about their big profit wins. Swedbank for example announced a record profit of nearly six billion kronor ($811 million).
One way that banks are trying to cut costs further is to phase out cash. Counter services can be wound down, printing costs are cut. What customers think about this idea is obviously not interesting for the banks, as long as they keep making a profit.
It's not just Swedbank pushing the idea of a cashless society, but also Nordea, SEB, Danske Bank and card companies Mastercard and Visa.
So far their plan has been successful and the banks will tell you that they are helping the environment by cutting cash production costs or decreasing the risk of robbery.
How much cash do you carry these days? Photo: Shutterstock
But little has been said about the major challenges that a cashless society brings. It infringes on people's privacy. It can make life difficult in sparsely populated areas. It can make a society vulnerable and increasingly open to sophisticated internet crimes.
How are disadvantaged people who currently exist outside the banking system supposed to survive? What happens to people's privacy when all transactions are traceable?
What happens when things go wrong? The Bråvalla music festival in Norrköping was supposed to be cashless this summer, but things descended into chaos when the payment system didn't work.
We need a public inquiry to look explicitly at reviewing the public's access to cash.
Cash is needed by many companies, associations and individuals in order for society to function.
This should be an important priority for Sweden's new Minister for Financial Markets and Consumer Affairs, Per Boland.
There must be a guarantee that we can continue to have access to notes and coins and we must be able to trust that our banks will allow this."
Björn Eriksson is a former national Police Chief , former President of Interpol and is currently Chairman of the Association of Swedish Private Security Companies
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